Coke content marketer: ‘We don’t always have big budgets.’

You might be tempted to look at a successful Coke campaign and think “The brand’s got a big budget, so its possible”, but this isn’t always the case. Keynote speaker for Marketing‘s Content 360 conference, Pratik Thakar who is group director, creative, content and design excellence at The Coca Cola Company said that the numerous brands under The Coca-Cola Company don’t always work with huge marketing budgets.

Giving the example of one of its energy drinks, Monster, he said, “We don’t always have big advertising campaigns. What we are amazing at are packaging and sampling, along with understanding the different languages of each brand,” Thakar explained.  For the brand, getting the attitude right starting from a promoter’s attitude and dressing, is essential towards the marketing of the brand.

For Monster, he said in North America, the company created huge Monster energy drink trucks and paired these trucks with the “hot men and women” to garner the attention of the public. “The truck itself has also evolved to serve as a form of outdoor media platform or pop up for the brand – bringing new and unexpected experiences for customers,” Thakar said. He added:

Sometimes, you don’t really need big deals and budgets, but rather ideas. Believe me, we have lots of brands but we don’t spend millions of dollars marketing each one.

Some of the other brands under its portfolio, on top of Monster, include juice brands Minute Maid and Fuze. But of course, a big budget is always helpful, even for an iconic brand such as Coca-Cola, which some may argue may not require a large budget when it comes to raising awareness, given its iconic nature.

Explaining a conversation he had with his boss who questioned the need for a big marketing budget, Thakar said that a big  budget was needed not to create awareness, but rather, drive more transactions that drive meaningful connections. One such example was when in 2013, it launched its Small World Machines project in India and Pakistan.

Coca-Cola created a vending machine which served as a live communications portal linking strangers in both countries. This involved the use of 3D touchscreen technology used to project the streams used in the campaign.

When it comes to Coke’s approach towards its content strategy, having a “tight and very simple” brief is essential, Thakar said. This includes outlining ambitions, big challenges and identifying whether or not the brand is a leader in specific markets or verticals. Another key step, is looking at consumer needs and behaviour.

“Most of the time, consumers don’t think about drinking a Coke at a specific time. They think about the beverage when they feel thirsty or are in need of an ice-cold drink. Thus as marketers, we need to look at human needs and see how we can feed and contribute to that,” Thakar said.

Design led thinking

Currently, the company works with a diverse ecosystem of partners and creatives.

Thakar added that marketers shouldn’t go to a single agency with a brief and expect them to figure it out on their own. Instead, they should look at how they can work with different people. As such, the company is more focused on finding creative people, rather than creative agencies.What also matters is working with the right quality of people.

“If you have passion, rigour, and people who are willing to invest their energy overnight or a couple of nights, you can come up with a great idea. It’s a rapid process which can allow you to get answers as early as a week while also being impactful,” Thakar added.

Describing the creative process, he says, “I am not a big fan of process. Yes, you need some sort of method to the madness when it comes to creativity, but it is still madness at the end of the day.”

Commercialising your idea

New ideas too, he added, may not always get commercialised right away due to varying circumstances. For the case of the Small World Machines project, Coca-Cola had to iron out issues pertaining to the technology before the campaign launched. And while the road might be tedious, if an idea is worth holding on to, he asks marketers to have the patience to see it through.

“Sometimes you have ideas lying in your bottom drawer which you can take out for a later. use We just need to understand these ideas require a longer conversation to find out what needs to be done,” Thakar added.

One way Coca-Cola combats this is through design thinking, which involves rapid prototyping and innovation. This includes a step-by-step process such as working with the problem, checking it with consumers and using ethnographic methods to talk to consumers about the idea.

The brand then brings in the input of different stakeholders, from people who work on the idea and design, to the marketing teams. Together, these stakeholders figure out how to best execute the idea.

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